October 23, 2014

Q3 2010 Quarterly Report Card (US Carriers)

Welcome back to the AndroidGuys quarterly report card! We put this feature together to help fill you, dear reader, in on we think each of the big four wireless providers are doing as it pertains to Android. Using the same system as the first time around, we conducted a blind, internal poll with members of our staff deciding how they would grade each U.S. wireless provider on their job.   You know, like a teacher handing out grades.

The guys and gals were instructed to keep a few things in mind before scoring the carriers.  We were advised to keep as objective as possible and shy away from rumors.  Leaked phones, upcoming projects, and yet-to-be announced handsets could not be factored into scoring.  To put it simply, we had to take what the carriers officially did over the time frame (Q3 2010) roll it into one letter grade.  How did your provider do?

T-Mobile USA

Current handsets: G2, myTouch 3G Slide, myTouch 3G, Behold II, Garminfone, Cliq, Cliq XT, Vibrant, Charm

Upcoming handsets: Defy, myTouch ‘HD’, Optimus T (LG)

If there is one thing T-Mobile has become good at, it’s releasing mediocre, mid-range Android handsets.  Save for the recent G2, the carrier had not released a top line, powerful smart phone running the latest version of Android.  Sure, the Samsung Vibrant is a fantastic device with excellent hardware, but it’s nothing so unique that people are flocking to T-Mobile.  While the upcoming myTouch ‘HD’  joins the G2 with HSPA+ support, the network has yet to be fully realized.  Much like Sprint’s 4G handsets, these are just future-proof phones for data heavy or internet speed junkies.  Once the carrier has a strong network to support the new devices, they will be in a much better position.

The real problems with the provider come with their older releases.  The Motorola Cliq and Cliq XT are achingly outdated in both hardware and software while the Garminfone and Behold II languish at the bottom of the Android heap.  Since we last checked in, T-Mobile took our advice and dropped the G1.  It’s time to ad another four phones to the retired list.  And go ahead and throw the Charm out while you’re at it.  We were excited by the form factor right up to the moment we turned the phone on.

We’re at an interesting point in T-Mobile and Android’s life cycle.  Customers who bought the first Android phone ever are now coming up for renewal and upgrades.  Does the G2 offer enough to keep them or will another provider steal them away?

The new pre-paid data plans have been announced and they are less than thrilling.  We cannot imagine too many Android users wanting to sign up for them as there’s no real bargain to be had over their Even More Plus plans.  However, one thing we’re really getting excited over is integration of UMA/WiFi calling.  The end of the year should see the feature starting with a few phones and hopefully rolling out to their entire line.  Final Grade: B-

Verizon

Current handsets: Devour, Droid Incredible, Ally, Droid 2, Droid X, Droid 2 (R2D2), Fascinate

Upcoming handsets: Citrus (Motorola), Droid Pro (Motorola)

Verizon continued to push out strong handsets over the last quarter with heavy hitters like the Droid 2 and Droid X.  While they do have a few lower priced phones in the Ally and Devour, a majority of their phones have Android 2.1 or 2.2 under the hood.  In terms of strong phones, Verizon makes it difficult to consider looking elsewhere.

A lot of people gave the carrier a rap on the knuckles for their decision to load Bing as the default search engine on the Samsung Fascinate.  Many of us here at AndroidGuys agree that it’s a business decision that Verizon has every right to make, but to restrict users from choosing an alternative (cough, Google) is not a way to endear themselves to users.  Thankfully, Verizon promises that an Android 2.2 update will allow that flexibility.

We’d like to see more from HTC and rumors show that a great slider QWERTY is on the horizon.  However, we can only talk about what’s official here.  The Droid Incredible is a fantastic handset that only got better with Android 2.2 this quarter.  The Droid Eris was a good pickup for folks getting into smart phones who were hesitant to spend too much money.  We applaud the carrier’s decision to drop the phone from its lineup as it could quickly look outdated as Gingerbread and Honeycomb arrives.

As much as we’d like to see other handset makers (Samsung, LG), it’s tough to argue that the Motorola phones in their Droid lineup aren’t among the best on the market. We’re excited to see how the Droid Pro does as Android tried to steal away RIM market share.    The Android 2.1 Citrus looks to fill the gap left with the Droid Eris and should sell well given a decent price point. Final Grade: B+

Sprint

Current handsets: EVO 4G, Epic 4G, Zio, Transform, Hero, i1, Intercept

Upcoming handsets: Optimus S (LG)

Sprint has built a solid repertoire of Android handsets over the last few months with two 4G-capable devices and a slew of recent announcements.  The EVO 4G and Epic 4G are among the top Android phones available in the United States and have the luxury of being paired with excellent rate plans.  These two phones balance each other out nicely and make for a very difficult decision for new Android buyers.

It’s hard to imagine, but just a few months back there weren’t very many QWERTY options on the market, yet now Sprint has three in the Epic 4G,  Transform, and Intercept.  Unfortunately, they are all bottlenecked at the $100 price point or higher.  We’d love to see one of these drop below the $100 range, even if it’s after rebate.

As quickly as some might be to dismiss the Transform or Zio as not being on par with other devices, we tend to disagree.  The feeling we get is that Sprint is trying to cater to a broader crowd with these two.  At first glance, the Transform looks nearly identical to the Epic 4G, but a closer inspection reveals they are for two different demographics.

The recent announcement of their new Sprint ID initiative intrigues us.  Given the reputable names already behind the ringtones, wallpapers, and apps, we’re excited to see where this goes.  For a new smart phone user, we can imagine this as being very appealing.  Sprint already does a great job recommending applications to their users, this only expands on that. We like the idea that Sprint will hold someone’s hand and help get them off on the right foot. Final Grade: A-

AT&T

Current handsets: Captivate, Backflip, Xperia X10, HTC Aria, Flipout

Upcoming handsets: Flipside (Motorola) , Bravo (Motorola)

After a very rocky start, AT&T is slowly getting things going in the world of Android.  The HTC Aria was a decent followup to the Backflip but it didn’t have a “wow” factor.  The Samsung Galaxy S series Captivate is among the sharpest looking smart phones in AT&T’s lineup, but it doesn’t differentiate itself much from the other carriers.  Wait, yes it does – It won’t allow for applications to be installed from outside of the Android Market.  If you’re looking to do some beta testing or get involved in some early looks, AT&T is not going to be the carrier for you.

The Sony Xperia X10 arrived this summer, months behind the rest of the world.  We tend to give the phone a hard time for having antiquated software, but in reality, most customers don’t know the Android space like we do.  To an average consumer, the X10 is one sexy phone with a gorgeous screen.  Once the Android 2.1 update arrives later this year, the X10 will be right in the thick of today’s super phones.

The recently announced Flipside, Fliout, and Bravo are unique in their own right but they won’t have people running to AT&T stores.  Each phone might speak to a different target user but they still lack a powerful punch.  We do like the price range though ($79.99 to $129.99) as it will attract new smart phone buyers.  Landing with Android 2.1 is definitely better than 1.5 or 1.6 but we’d rather have 2.2 if given the option.

Let’s hope they have something awesome up their sleeves for the end of the year.  We’re moving in the right direction, but not very fast.   For instance, we’d love to see a handset with a decent QWERTY that doesn’t come with a gimmick.  Final Grade: C-